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Roxane Gay Loves the Fairy Tale Ending

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Jay Grabiec

Roxane Gay presents Pretty Woman at TIFF followed by a conversation about the romantic comedy genre and how the message of the film holds up 28 years later.

Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, follows Edward, a billionaire hotshot who needs an escort for some deal-making social events, and hires Vivian, a beautiful prostitute he meets on Hollywood Blvd, only to fall in love.

Since it’s release in 1990, the film continues to find a place in the hearts of many, including Roxane Gay, who remains consistent in her love for this legendary rom-com. When asked about how that love has evolved over time, Gay says, “what I appreciated when the movie first came out was the fairy tale. I love fairy tales. What I appreciate more is the craft now. It’s actually a really well made movie despite the problematic nature of how it deals with sex work and how it deals with gender and the fact that black people are only in service roles. Other than all of that, it’s a really tight screenplay.”

In the current cultural climate, representation of both race and gender, are both very important issues. And though it’s been said before, it is important to continue talking about these issues. Gay has been covering the topics for years in her literary works such as Bad Feminist (2014), Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) and Difficult Women (2017). She has become the voice of feminists everywhere, an inspiration and a leader, helping to move the conversation forward.

So how does a feminist icon rationalize her love for romantic comedies, which are typically portrayed as girlie fluff? The answer is two-fold. For one, we need to stop being ashamed of our love for the romantic-comedy genre. The problem in Gay’s opinion, is that things that women like are often treated as frivolous. “Ultimately it comes down to misogyny as usual. Because women are the primary consumers of romantic comedies and so anything that women are interested in is terrible. Romantic comedies rely on normal life and love and living and of course they have these idealized versions of life and love, but they’re still interesting.”

Secondly, Gay explains that she is, “able to love things despite their bad issues and in the spectrum of problematic pop culture, this is actually not that bad.” Immediately after saying this Gay chuckles, endearing the entire audience to her even more, as she realizes she quoted the title of a collection of essays she edited, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (2018). And she’s right, Pretty Woman is not that bad. In fact, it’s great in the way it continually emphasizes active consent through Vivian’s repeated words, “I say who, I say when, I say how much.” The root of which says that Vivian’s body is hers to control. A message that applies to all women (and men for that matter) and that is just as important today, as it was 28 years ago.

Gay outlines that rom-coms do have a formula: boy meets girl, boy or girl falls in love, there’s an obstacle, and then a happily ever after. And that that formula is tried and true. She also expresses the lack of need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to the genre, because attempts to do so are often done badly. Instead of changing the genre, she wants to see more character development for the male leads. Often times the female lead has to be so many things, as is the case in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’ character has to be charming, sexy, interesting and elegant. This is in stark contrast to Richard Gere’s character who simply has to show up in a suit. “Like, what does he do with his free time? What does he look like in jeans? I think that we’re supposed to think that she should just be grateful that this man is going to treat her with a modicum of decency. No. Let’s have some personality, some texture,” pleads Gay.

If you have trouble with the endless options on Netflix, then look no further. Here are Roxane Gay’s top five romantic comedies, outside of Pretty Woman, along with the reasons that she loves them:

  1. Imagine Me & You (2005), because it’s so sweet and tender.
  2. No Strings Attached (2011), because she loves when people say “I’m not going to have in love” and then they fall in love.
  3. Love Jones (1997), because it’s sexy.
  4. You’ve Got Mail (1998), because it was like a cultural critique of Barnes and Noble.
  5. Something’s Gotta Give (2003), because it shows that you can be older and have just as messy a love life as someone forty years younger.

Or perhaps you’d like to revisit Pretty Woman. You won’t be sorry you did. If not for the fairy tale romance, then for the wonderfully 80s soundtrack. Here Gay talks about why she still loves the movie today:

Pretty Woman is my favorite movie and has been since I first saw it, in the theatre, in 1990. Back then, I thought Pretty Woman was so romantic. What’s not to love about a down-on-her-luck, charming sex worker meeting a handsome billionaire and the two of them having a whirlwind romance, falling in love, and rescuing each other, as Vivian (Julia Roberts) suggests at the end of the movie? I am older now. I am a feminist. I recognize the problematic nature of Pretty Woman‘s story. I recognize the fallacy of fairy tales, and still, I believe in them. Still, I love romantic comedies and how they make it seem that life and love are not nearly as complicated as we make them out to be. I love all the moments in Pretty Woman that make my heart swell: when Edward (Richard Gere) takes Vivian shopping to ensure she receives better treatment than she did when she went shopping on her own; the warm relationship Vivian develops with hotel manager Barney; how she handles the snobby women at the polo match; and Kit (Laura San Giacomo) and Vivian’s realness as they navigate life on the margins. But most of all, there is the romance, the sex on the piano, the night at the opera, the wild implausibility of this love story — and how willing the movie makes us to believe in that story anyhow. —Roxane Gay

Gay currently has multiple projects in the works including a book of writing advice, an essay collection, and a YA novel entitled The Year I Learned Everything. She would also like to write a romantic-comedy of her own and has her eyes on a dream cast that includes Bad Times at the El Royale’s Cynthia Erivo and Creed II’s Florian Munteanu.

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Amazon Bushfire documentary dives into Australia’s ‘Black Summer”

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Courtesy of Amazon Studios

“Burning” circumferences the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires in which an estimated 59 million acres were ravaged in what’s recollected as the “Black Summer.” The hair-raising documentary made its debut at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, sparking outrage over the absence of political concern.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Eva Orner directed the 86-minute film, which presents horrifying testimonies from local activists, journalists, and victims who recounted the staggering devastation during the eight-month period.

Climate change activist, Daisy Jeffery, was featured in the documentary for her ferocious pursuit to create a safer environment for future generations. Jeffery admitted to “crying for three days straight” after witnessing the damage that remained in her hometown.

Like many Gen Zers, the 17-year-old revealed she is factoring the climate crisis into her future reproductive choices. Her ongoing anger toward dozens of political figures like Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has prompted her to lead protests across South East Australia, uniting thousands to speak out against the economic injustice.

The prime minister declined to be interviewed for the film, and his lack of response spoke volumes. Orner released footage throughout “Burning,” displaying Morrison’s ignorance surrounding the untamable flames even after former fire commissioner Greg Mullins warned of a lethal bushfire season a few years prior.

Eva Orner, Forrest Borie, Jonathan Schaerf - Eva Orner and Forrest Borie Photos - 2021 Toronto International Film Festival - "Burning" Photo Call - Zimbio
(L-R) Jonathan Schaerf, Eva Orner, and Forrest Borie attend the “Burning” Photo Call during the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 14, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Getty)

“It’s worse than we think it is! Things are moving faster than we predicted and anticipated,” says Orner. “If we want to realistically protect the next generations, we have to take action now. It has to be government action across the globe. It needs to be legislation. It needs to be world leaders committing to net-zero by 2030; not 2050.”

Australia is considered the world’s largest exporter of coal and a major natural gas giant; Morrison turning the other cheek could cause catastrophic effects to the entire world. While citizens of the country fight to combat climate change, the prime minister continues to poke fun at the activism.

“Burning” will be available on Amazon Prime Video at a later date in 2021.

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Hollywood celebrates Pre-Emmy’s at 15th annual MPFA benefit gala “Evening Before”

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CENTURY CITY, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18: (L-R) Billy Porter, Regé-Jean Page, Cynthia Erivo, Bob Beitcher, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kathryn Hahn, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Anya Taylor-Joy and Evan Peters attend MPTF 15th Annual Evening Before Emmys on September 18, 2021 in Century City, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for MPTF)
CENTURY CITY, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 18: (L-R) Billy Porter, Regé-Jean Page, Cynthia Erivo, Bob Beitcher, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kathryn Hahn, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Anya Taylor-Joy and Evan Peters attend MPTF 15th Annual Evening Before Emmys on September 18, 2021 in Century City, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for MPTF)

Television’s biggest night took place in Century City, CA Saturday, September 18th, where the entertainment industry came together for the 15th annual “Evening Before” party, benefiting MPTF (Motion Picture & Television Fund). 

The television industry, from Emmy presenters and nominees to other TV industry members, helped raise funds to support their industry colleagues and friends who benefit from MPTF’s charitable programs and services such as financial assistance, crisis counseling, care giving support and of course the legendary retirement facility in Woodland Hills that is “home” to television and film veterans alike. Out of an abundance of caution, all guests were required to show proof of vaccination and proof of a negative PCR Covid-19 test.

“What a fabulous night to celebrate MPTF’s 100th anniversary and the resiliency of our industry’s creative spirit!” said MPTF President & CEO Bob Beitcher. “MPTF’s Evening Before was a moment for all of us to remember.”

The 15th Annual “Evening Before” Host Committee consisted of Uzo Aduba, Anthony Anderson, Paul Bettany, Aidy Bryant, Olivia Colman & Ed Sinclair, Michael Douglas, Cynthia Erivo, Jonathan Groff, Kathryn Hahn & Ethan Sandler, William H. Macy, Regé-Jean Page, Evan Peters, Billy Porter, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Jean Smart, Jurnee Smollett, Anya Taylor-Joy, Kenan Thompson, Hannah Waddingham, and Bradley Whitford & Amy Landecker.

The Executive Host Committee included Bela Bajaria, Bob Bakish, Greg Berlanti & Robbie Rogers, Frances Berwick, Casey Bloys, Michelle & Paul Buccieri, George Cheeks, Nicole Clemens & Vaun Wilmott, Charlie Collier, Roma Downey & Mark Burnett, Channing Dungey, Jamie Erlicht, Craig Erwich, Ann & Jim Gianopulos, Pearlena Igbokwe, Jason Kilar, Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams, Steve Mosko, Andrea & David Nevins, Megan & Peter Rice, Susan Rovner, Jennifer Salke, Ann Sarnoff, Zack Van Amburg, Tony Vinciquerra, Dana & Matt Walden, and Ally Walker & John Landgraf.

This year’s presenting sponsors were Penske Media Corporation (PMC) and Target with additional support from Diamond sponsors Netflix, The Walt Disney Company, and WarnerMedia.

Among the celebrities who attended this year’s event were Lauren Ash, Vanessa Bayer, Madeline Brewer, Sterling K. Brown, Yvette Nicole Brown, Stephen Colbert, Ariana DeBose, Zooey Deschanel, Phil Dunster, Paapa Essiedu, Fortune Feimster, Cristo Fernández, Lukas Gage, Brett Goldstein, Tony Hale, Justin Hartley, Christina Hendricks, Anders Holm, Sarah Hyland, Mindy Kaling, Dan Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Joel McHale, Lorne Michaels, Max Minghella, Matthew Morrison, Annie Murphy, Julianne Nicholson, Ego Nwodim, Josh O’Connor, Rita Ora, Amy Poehler, Jack Quaid, Juno Temple, Tessa Thompson, Lena Waithe, Taika Waititi, Bowen Yang and many more.

The “Evening Before” was designed as a relaxed town square atmosphere in the park by Silver Birches with specialty food provided by Carmelized Productions by Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo.

The event is designed after the highly successful “Night Before,” another fundraiser held annually before the Academy Awards for the past nineteen years to benefit MPTF.

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The cast of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ discuss film’s uplifting soundtrack feature “You Will Be Found”

The breathtaking, generation-defining Broadway phenomenon, “Dear Evan Hansen” becomes a soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt reprises his role as an anxious, isolated high schooler aching for understanding and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty of the social-media age.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Wonder), the film is written for the screen by the show’s Tony winner Steven Levenson with music and lyrics by the show’s Oscar®, Grammy and Tony-winning songwriting team of Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).

The cast includes: Ben Platt, Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, and more.

The film is only theaters September 24, 2021.

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